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Water Levels to Remain the Same at Sayers Dam and Reservoir

by on May 15, 2018 5:10 PM

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has discontinued a study that could have resulted in the lowering of water levels at Foster J. Sayers Dam and Reservoir in Bald Eagle State Park.

Begun in 2016 in collaboration with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the study was investigating operational modifications to sustain the aquatic habitat during low-flow months of July through November. The reservoir is already drawn down by 20 feet beginning in November and returned to normal level in late spring, but the study was considering instead releasing smaller amounts of water from the reservoir over time to help protect the ecosystem during the the months when downstream water levels are at their lowest.

Marginal benefits and community outcry over the effects of lowering the reservoir earlier were cited as the reasons for ending the study.

“We feel it is not in the federal interest to continue to spend additional federal funding on further evaluation,” said Anastasiya Kononova, the Corps' Baltimore District project manager. “Based on findings from the modeling and environmental analysis of various alternatives, environmental benefits could occur from adjusting releases during low flows, but these benefits are marginal.”

At a public workshop last year and at Howard Borough Council meetings, community members and officials expressed concerns over how it would impact tourism and recreation during peak months, as well as an increase in dust around surrounding areas that already occurs when the reservoir is drawn down. 

“I am pleased to hear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agrees with the people of Centre County and will not change the water levels at Foster Sayers,” said state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, whose 76th District includes Howard. “Foster Sayers Lake and the surrounding Bald Eagle State Park must remain the recreational gem it is today. This decision ensures continued economic success and outdoor entertainment opportunities for the entire community.”

Corps team members attended the Howard Borough Council meeting on Monday to inform council members of the decision to discontinue the study.

“This study shows that the public process works,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander. “We listened to and considered the feedback received from stakeholders and members of the public through various means like our initial public workshop, attendance at borough council meetings and email study status updates. This feedback played a critical role in our decision to conclude the study in addition to the modeling results.”

The 1,730-acre Sayers Reservoir was formed in 1969 with the damming of Bald Eagle Creek by the Corps. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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